Emporio Armani Smartwatch 3 Review: Not the style icon it should be

Emporio Armani Smartwatch 3 Review: Not the style icon it should be

Score Details

“The Emporio Armani Smartwatch 3’s few positives can’t convince us to pay out the high price.”

  • Great for casual fitness tracking
  • Decent EA watch face collection
  • Heart rate tracking, GPS, and NFC onboard
  • Mundane design
  • Tired WearOS software
  • Priced higher than the competition
  • Uncomfortable rubber strap

There was a time when wearing an Armani suit was pretty much all you needed to create the right impression. Smart, sophisticated, and classy, quality was never a concern. Unfortunately, since Emporio Armani has started putting its name on touchscreen Wear OS smartwatches, it hasn’t managed to capture the same cache. I’ve been wearing the latest Emporio Armani Smartwatch 3 and while there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with it, I never loved wearing it in the way I would an Armani suit, and in a world chock-full of designer Wear OS watches with similarly mediocre performance, that’s a problem.

Design

Before we get into the look and materials of the watch its name is the beginning of the problem. If you want to buy this model, you should look for the Emporio Armani Smartwatch 3, or ART5024, as seen in our pictures. That number three and generic name are the only things that differentiate it from previous EA smartwatches. Just give it a proper name, for pity’s sake. It may just make it more memorable, something that it’s currently not.

Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

On the subject of being forgettable, let’s move on to the design. It’s a bit “smartwatch 101.” The round body has some lugs, a crown, two buttons, and a circular touchscreen — all of which are placed in the areas you’d expect them to be. There’s nothing that says sophisticated, as one may expect from the brand. There’s no stylistic flourish that will make someone take a second glance. The durable rubber strap is very long and very grippy, and the keeper often caught my wrist hair when I struggled to move it down the strap, as it grips like an over-zealous limpet. I’d recommend choosing one of the metal or leather alternatives over this bothersome rubber strap.

On the positive side, there are some pretty colors to give it some life, with the burnt orange of my unit and an option for metallic blue, which both look excellent. Swap the strap out, or buy the model with the stainless steel strap in the first place, and the look will improve, but not greatly. The aluminum case is slim and light, making it easy to wear regardless of your outfit. The 44mm case is quite large; it’s plainly been designed for men. An annoying scratch appeared around the edge of the screen on my review model, which has detracted from its looks.

Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

Let me be clear. The Emporio Armani Smartwatch 3 isn’t ugly at all, it’s just understated to the point of dullness, and lacks identity. The strap is two straight pieces of rubber, the buttons don’t have any texture, and the bezel is a black, slightly angled border — and no one looks twice at any of it. There’s nothing obvious about it that links it to the desirable Emporio Armani brand, unless you look really closely at the crown to see the logo etched in. Ask me in a few months to remember what the watch looked like, and I’ll answer, “What watch?”

Software and performance

The Smartwatch 3 has Google’s Wear OS onboard, powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 3100 platform, along with a heart rate sensor, NFC, and a microphone/speaker combination for making calls on the watch. Wear OS hasn’t changed much over the past few years and feels tired, while the control system is dreary and out-dated. This is why design on a Wear OS smartwatch is so important; it’s truly the only thing that can set it apart. Wear OS isn’t great, so buying decisions come down to how good a watch looks, and with options like the Diesel On Fadelite and On Axial available, (or the Misfit Vapor X, Michael Kors Access, Fossil Gen 5 — the list goes on, really) Emporio Armani’s efforts are easy to pass over.

The only Armani-specific software feature is the collection of watch faces, which are varied and well-designed. There’s an option for everyone here, with classic styles, modern digital options, and some EA-centric versions too. Even if you don’t like them, there are plenty more available in the Google Play Store. The watch will run third-party apps too, but install too many at your own peril, as it will slow performance down noticeably. Oddly, you’ll need to install Google Maps and Google Play Music yourself, as they don’t come pre-installed, despite being useful parts of the smartwatch experience.

Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

Initial setup is a laborious process too, with multiple updates and way too many passwords and conditions to apply. It’s a 30 minute session just to get it working. Navigation is performed using swipes and taps, and response time is average but never nearly as fast as the Apple Watch. At least the 1.3-inch AMOLED screen is attractive and pleasant to look at. The EA Smartwatch 3 does have a twist crown to make life a little easier, particularly when scrolling through the notifications screen or adjusting music volume.

Notifications are shown in a long, scrolling list. They’re interactive, meaning you can reply to messages, emails, and tweets, either with canned responses or using your voice. However, I received the same email notifications over and over again sometimes, which was frustrating and diminished the usefulness of the watch. This added stress around notifications is in direct opposition of one of the main things smartwatches try to minimize. Unfortunately, I’ve had the same experience on many other Wear OS smartwatches, so it’s a software issue rather than a problem unique to this model.

It’s not all bad. The cards accessed through a swipe left, which show Google Fit, the weather, and your calendar are useful, and replying to notifications on the watch is handy sometimes. Google Pay is also onboard for contactless payments, and the special ambient always-on watch faces increase the watch’s usefulness and aesthetic, as you can always see the time on-screen. Performance is adequate for pre-installed apps and general use. Overall it’s considerably better than older Wear OS watches, with only occasional slowdowns to irritate; but average fair for the current generation of Wear OS devices, and still miles away from the standard fluidity and support seen on the Apple Watch.

Fitness tracking

Google Fit is the proprietary health and fitness tracking platform, but because Wear OS can run other apps, you can add Strava, Runkeeper, Endomundo, and a few others for specific sports. Google Fit’s a great workout companion for my needs, though. It shows all the metrics I want — steps, heart rate, calories burned, and intensity — in a clear, concise way. It’s also easy to use and access. Linked to the lower button on the Armani watch, the menu it brings up can be used to take your heart rate or start a workout. Google Fit also has a guided breathing feature, which takes two minutes to complete and is based on mindfulness and steady breathing techniques.

Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

Smartwatches make good sense as fitness trackers and workout partners. The design of the Smartwatch 3 still looks at home in the gym, it didn’t get overly sweaty under the strap, and the slim case means the risk of knocking it against equipment is low. Google Fit is a great piece of software, and it operates smoothly and effectively on the Smartwatch 3, but it’s still best suited to the casual fitness fan.

Battery life

The latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 3100 platform is more efficient than the old Snapdragon 2100, but sadly that doesn’t mean you’ll make it to two days on a single charge without drastically limiting functionality. A single day is reasonable with moderate use, which includes about an hour’s worth of fitness and heart rate tracking. Charging is performed using a plastic, magnetic plinth, and takes an hour to fully recharge the battery.

Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

The Smartwatch 3 has a selection of battery-extending modes, where particular features are turned off to ensure the battery keeps going for longer. Extended Mode turns off the always-on display, sound, Wi-Fi, heart rate tracking, tilt and touch to wake the screen, and voice control, plus restricts the Bluetooth connection to between the hours of 6am and 10pm. When these measures are in place, the watch will last for about 48 hours on a full charge. A Time Only mode does exactly what it says — no notifications or anything — but it will stretch the battery out for a week or so.

But of course, such modes diminish the point of having a smartwatch, especially the way these work. I couldn’t see the time in Extended Mode unless I pressed the side button, and can only see the time in Time Only mode. If you want both “smart” and “watch” features, then it has to be put in normal mode and charged daily. What I do like is the watch automatically enters a low-power mode when the battery is running out, so I can still see the time even if the smart features are turned off. Handy at the end of a long day.

Price and availability

The Emporio Armani Smartwatch 3, or ART5024 in this color scheme, is available to buy now at a pricey $395, or 370 British pounds — the same price as an entry level Apple Watch. It’s also more than $100 more than several other WearOS smartwatches with the same specifications and functions.

Our Take

The Emporio Armani Smartwatch 3 is as generic as its name suggests. Despite bearing the Armani name it lacks flair and stylistic attention, and is simply too expensive. While there are aspects which are good — the fitness tracking, contactless payments, quick charge, and attractive screen — the understated design doesn’t make us want to pick it up and put it on — a key selling point for the flooded Wear OS watch market. Emporio Armani needs to come up with a design that’s recognizably its own, rather than settle for something so ordinary.

What are the alternatives?

We’ll say it loudly for those in the back: If you own an iPhone, buy an Apple Watch! Don’t buy a smartwatch with Wear OS if you don’t have to, because the ownership experience is sub-par when used with an iPhone. Apple’s WatchOS software is lightyears ahead, there are many customization options, and Apple traditionally supports the software for several years. The health tracking is also second to none. Prices on these start at $400 — the same price as the Armani Smartwatch 3.

If you own an Android phone, we recommend the $280 Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2, which has the more streamlined Tizen software instead of Wear OS. It’s smoother and easier to use, while being more attractive, as well. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than Wear OS. However, the design of the Watch Active 2 isn’t great, and that’s where the better Wear OS watch options come in.

The Diesel On Axial looks excellent, and we’ll put up with the Wear OS software for that, while the $295 Fossil Gen 5 smartwatch does everything the Armani watch does for less money. Misfits minimalist design also gets it right with the $280 Vapor X. Finally, consider the $275 Huawei Watch GT2 if you prefer simplicity and a solid design over endless apps and features.

How long will it last?

The battery will always be a smartwatch’s weak link. It will degrade over time, and may affect everyday use after a few years. However, people are keeping smartwatches for longer than smartphones, so three or four years ownership is entirely possible. Google has ignored Wear OS for years, so don’t expect any major alterations in the near future, based on its current track record.

The watch itself is going to be relatively durable with water resistance up to 50 meters, but in the short time with it on our wrist, the case or screen (it’s hard to tell exactly which) has been scratched around the edge, leaving an obvious mark and raising some concerns over build quality. The strap is attached using quick release pins, so it’s easily changed for another.

Should you buy one?

No. While a smartwatch is a great accessory to your phone, you need to buy the right one to ensure a good ownership experience. Sadly, the Emporio Armani Smartwatch 3 prices itself way above better Wear OS smartwatches, without giving you a genuine reason to buy it.